Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott will begin his five-day visit to India today to strengthen ties between the two countries.
While this move to boost trade and investment between the two strategic partners has been broadly welcomed, Mr Abbott’s visit during the ongoing pandemic has met with mixed reactions from members of the Indian community as well as ‘a bilateral trade body.
- Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott begins five-day visit to India today to strengthen trade and investment ties
- Visiting India-Australian experts and trade bodies, Indian community questions timing during pandemic
- Travel restrictions to India must first be relaxed, say members of the Indo-Australian community
Over the weekend, Minister of Commerce Dan Tehan announced Mr. Abbott’s visit to India.
âMr. Abbott will travel to India in early August to meet with Indian ministers and business leaders. It will be an opportunity to advance Australia’s ambitious agenda to invigorate and expand our bilateral trade and investment relationship with India.
âThe Australian government partially supported Abbott’s trip to India. Mr. Abbott will not be paid for his work, âsaid Minister Tehan, adding that the former Prime Minister’s visit aims to advance economic and trade relations between the two countries as part of their comprehensive strategic partnership.
However, the visit drew mixed reactions from the Australian Indian community and a major Indo-Australian business organization.
Welcoming the news, the Australian India Business Council (AIBC) called the former prime minister a “champion” of such business initiatives.
AIBC National President Jim Varghese told SBS Hindi: âThe AIBC welcomes any initiative to promote increased trade and investment with India. Tony Abbott has been and is a champion of this result, âsaid Mr. Varghese.
Professor Amitabh Mattoo, honorary professor at the University of Melbourne and chair of the Australia-India Leadership Dialogue, told SBS Hindi that Abbott’s visit would provide a historic opportunity for the two countries to strengthen their ties.
“As a former Prime Minister, Mr. Abbott brings great political importance to the negotiation of a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) or more specifically a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (ECSC)” Professor Mattoo told SBS Hindi by phone from New Delhi.
“He is known as a friend of India and enjoys an excellent chemistry with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and it is under his leadership that bilateral relations have reached new heights,” he added.
Stating that a breakthrough was needed in terms of political clout and direction, Matto added: âAs a starting point, the FTA or the ECSC can be a limited agreement that bypasses contentious bilateral issues and focuses on key common areas. In the months and years to come, both sides will be able to build on the basic agreement. Now is the time to be very optimistic about bilateral relations â.
While academic experts have welcomed the visit, the news is not very well received by the Indian community as a whole.
Nilesh Bansal from Melbourne, who is currently in Mumbai caring for her ailing relative, believes it is time to do more to allow Indian nationals to travel to India.
“I think the Australian government needs to do more to make it easier for Indian nationals to travel to India who may need to do so due to an emergency or family involvement,” Bansal told SBS Hindi.
“The government must also help Australian nationals and permanent residents stranded in India with paid repatriation flights as they did last year,” he added.
“My family had to wait days for an exemption to travel to India when my father was critically admitted and admitted to intensive care,” said Mr Bansal.
âThese were very difficult days for all of us. If I had been allowed to come earlier, maybe I could have gotten better help for him and things would have been different, âhe added.
Ash Raina, an IT professional from Brisbane, believes that if the measures taken by the government to stimulate the economy are all the more important during the pandemic, the health, safety and security of the country should be of of paramount importance.
âThe technology can certainly be used for such meetings. There is no excuse for making such exceptions when almost all Australian states are blocked, âhe added.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed to SBS Hindi that upon his return, Mr. Abbott will be subject to a COVID security plan like any other international traveler.
“[Mr] Abbott will comply with all applicable requirements upon return to Australia, including mandatory government-approved quarantine for at least 14 days, âthe spokesperson said.
According to the Home Office, people requesting an exemption to travel to India will only be allowed under limited circumstances.